In a cathedral, it is always night. The warmth of the day turns to damp coolness. The traffic is silenced behind thick granite walls. No number of candelabras can illuminate the vast darkness overhead. Shadows fall everywhere. There’s only the stained glass, high above, filtering the ugliness of the outside world into rays of muted reds and blues.
The Seville Cathedral, like all great cathedrals of Europe, is laid out in the shape of a cross. The sanctuary and altar are located just above the midpoint and open downward onto the main sanctuary. Wooden pews fill the vertical axis, a staggering 113 yards from the altar to the base of the cross. To the left and right of the altar, the transept of the cross houses confessionals, sacred tombs, and additional seating.
Becker found himself wedged in the middle of a long pew about halfway back. Overhead, in the dizzying empty space, a silver censer the size of a refrigerator swung enormous arcs on a frayed rope, leaving a trail of frankincense. The bells of the Giralda kept ringing, sending low rumbling shock waves through the stone. Becker lowered his gaze to the gilded wall behind the altar. He had a lot to be thankful for. He was breathing. He was alive. It was a miracle.
As the priest prepared to give the opening prayer, Becker checked his side. There was a red stain on his shirt, but the bleeding had stopped. The wound was small, more of a laceration than a puncture. Becker tucked his shirt back in and craned his neck. Behind him, the doors were cranking shut. He knew if he’d been followed, he was now trapped. The Seville Cathedral had a single functional entrance, a design popularized in the days when churches were used as fortresses, a safe haven against Moorish invasion. With a single entrance, there was only one door to barricade. Now the single entrance had another function‑it ensured all tourists entering the cathedral had purchased a ticket.
The twenty‑two‑foot‑high, gilded doors slammed with a decisive crash. Becker was sealed in the house of God. He closed his eyes and slid low in his pew. He was the only one in the building not dressed in black. Somewhere voices began to chant.
* * *
Toward the back of the church, a figure moved slowly up the side aisle, keeping to the shadows. He had slipped in just before the doors closed. He smiled to himself. The hunt was getting interesting. Becker is here . . . I can feel it. He moved methodically, one row at a time. Overhead the frankincense decanter swung its long, lazy arcs. A fine place to die, Hulohot thought. I hope I do as well.
* * *
Becker knelt on the cold cathedral floor and ducked his head out of sight. The man seated next to him glared down‑it was most irregular behavior in the house of God.
“Enfermo,” Becker apologized. “Sick.”
Becker knew he had to stay low. He had glimpsed a familiar silhouette moving up the side aisle. It’s him! He’s here!
Despite being in the middle of an enormous congregation, Becker feared he was an easy target‑his khaki blazer was like a roadside flare in the crowd of black. He considered removing it, but the white oxford shirt underneath was no better. Instead he huddled lower.
The man beside him frowned. “Turista.” He grunted. Then he whispered, half sarcastically, “Llamo un medico? Shall I call a doctor?”
Becker looked up at the old man’s mole‑ridden face. “No, gracias. Estoy bien.”
The man gave him an angry look. “Pues sientate! Then sit down!” There were scattered shushes around them, and the old man bit his tongue and faced front.
Becker closed his eyes and huddled lower, wondering how long the service would last. Becker, raised Protestant, had always had the impression Catholics were long‑winded. He prayed it was true‑as soon as the service ended, he would be forced to stand and let the others out. In khaki he was dead.
Becker knew he had no choice at the moment. He simply knelt there on the cold stone floor of the great cathedral. Eventually, the old man lost interest. The congregation was standing now, singing a hymn. Becker stayed down. His legs were starting to cramp. There was no room to stretch them. Patience, he thought. Patience. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
It felt like only minutes later that Becker felt someone kicking him. He looked up. The mole‑faced man was standing to his right, waiting impatiently to leave the pew.
Becker panicked. He wants to leave already? I’ll have to stand up! Becker motioned for the man to step over him. The man could barely control his anger. He grabbed the tails of his black blazer, pulled them down in a huff, and leaned back to reveal the entire row of people waiting to leave. Becker looked left and saw that the woman who had been seated there was gone. The length of pew to his left was empty all the way to the center aisle.
The service can’t be over! It’s impossible! We just got here!
But when Becker saw the altar boy at the end of the row and the two single‑file lines moving up the center aisle toward the altar, he knew what was happening.
Communion. He groaned. The damn Spaniards do it first!